Monday, March 27, 2006

Moussaoui 'targeted White House'


Self-confessed al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui has testified in a US court that he had planned to hijack a jet and fly it into the White House.
He denied direct involvement in the New York attacks of 11 September 2001, but admitted he had known about them.

Moussaoui, 37, said he lied to investigators after his arrest in August 2001 so the attacks took place.

Defence lawyers tried to stop him incriminating himself in an effort to stave off a possible death penalty.

The Moroccan-born French citizen pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with al-Qaeda to attack the US.


Under cross-examination from prosecutor Robert Spencer, Moussaoui told the court that he had lied after being arrested in Minnesota in August 2001.

Although he did not know exactly when the attacks planned against New York and Washington were due to take place, Moussaoui said he realised that misleading investigators would ensure they were carried out.

He also told the court that he and convicted "shoe-bomber", British-born Richard Reid, were recruited to hijack another aircraft and fly it into the White House after the initial strikes.

Prosecution 'gift'

In a day of confusing testimony at the court in Virginia, it was not immediately clear whether Moussaoui and Reid were due to attack Washington on 11 September 2001 or soon afterwards.

Moussaoui has become well-known for his unpredictable outbursts while in the witness box.

During frequent appearances before the US courts he has sometimes contradicted earlier testimony and appeared mentally unstable.

However, the BBC's Justin Webb, in Washington, says it looks like the prosecution has received something of a gift from Moussaoui.

They have said all along that he knew enough about the 11 September plot to stop it happening, and that appears to be what he has said in court, our correspondent adds.

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